CLEARWATER, FLA. — Chris Davis’ minor elbow soreness was starting to look like a major problem until an MRI ruled out any ligament damage Saturday afternoon.
Of course, just the news that the Orioles’ slugging first baseman was experiencing increased inflammation in his throwing arm sent a a shiver through the organization and provided an additional rationale for the recent minor league signings of Pedro Álvarez and Danny Valencia.
Manager Buck Showalter said those acquisitions were coincidental, but described both as “injury insurance,” and the concern about Davis — while milder than it was before the MRI — still magnifies the importance of some added veteran infield talent.
“On the surface, it may not fit mathematically right now, but things could change,” Showalter said. “It also opens up some options for you to do some things, whether it be trades or whatever and have coverage, because these guys are going to end up signing with people and they are going to be in camp with people.”
Though the news on Davis is good and the club projects he’ll be ready to resume normal activities in three to five days, there is no guarantee that he won’t lose significant preparation time as the club inches closer to their March 29 regular-season opener.
Showalter said the soreness is in the flexor area, which isn’t going to put anyone’s mind totally at ease. It’s common for a sore elbow — particularly in the case of an injured pitcher — to be initially diagnosed as a flexor strain and then turn out to be a ligament tear. The MRI has apparently ruled that out, but a forearm strain can still turn into a nagging injury.
“Anytime you've got something that's not doing what they think, you worry about if there's something structurally in there. But it seems to be OK," Showalter said.
The injury was initially acknowledged when Davis was scheduled to play first base Wednesday and had to be scratched from the defensive alignment. He played in that game as the designated hitter and hit a home run, then started as the DH in the leadoff spot Friday and had four plate appearances.
Davis, who signed a seven-year, $161 million contract before the 2016 season, is coming off a disappointing 2017 season during which he missed significant time with an oblique injury. He played in just 128 games and blamed his soft run-production numbers on a lack of aggressiveness at the plate.
This year, he said, would be different, but bouncing back could become increasingly problematic the more time he misses in Florida.
Álvarez signed with the Orioles for the third straight year and remained at Triple-A Norfolk for most of last season before getting some major league time in September. Valencia signed a minor league contract to insure against an injury to third baseman Tim Beckham.
Valencia said Saturday that even though he accepted a minor league deal with the Orioles, he has no interest in playing in the minor leagues this year.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette was not surprised to hear that. He said that was his understanding when he signed Valencia, who didn’t seem like a logical fit for a team that also has brought in a pair of left-handed-hitting outfielders.
Now, nothing seems certain. Showalter said Saturday that the club is still considering the possibility of bringing in a few more of the players who have languished in the frozen free-agent market.
“I don't want to be having to go out and get somebody [later],” he said. “We don't want to have to trade for somebody to get them because then we have to give up players or draft picks or signing bonus money, whatever the hell it is. I'll take every one of them in here to sort it out.”